Review: Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe

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Review: Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe

An overlooked Wii gem gets a polished remaster to bring another Kirby adventure to the Switch.


Alongside a modern edition of Kirby's Return to Dreamland comes some very worthwhile new content to enjoy.

Gameplay

Whispy Woods

The core gameplay is pretty usual for a Kirby game, with some platforming and action with different abilities to change the way you play. In the way a Metroid game often has you questioning where you should be and what abilities you should be using, Kirby's Return to Dreamland Deluxe is very deliberate about where it places certain enemies and abilities. Your only responsibility as a player isn't to find these abilities to better be able to progress, it is only to realize when the terrain or stage is changing and when you need to start picking up those new abilities nearby. The platforming isn't too tricky, and the boss fights progress in difficult pretty slowly, so it isn't until the end that you really start to realize how far you've come, but the real fun comes from collecting.

Trying to find all the secret blocks or doors in each level to collect all of the Energy Spheres or Tickets for Merry Magoland is where the real challenge and fun is. By playing very diligently, you can probably find and collect them all on your first run-through of a level, and keeping your head on a swivel along with completing the puzzles and challenges to collect the bonus items makes each stage much more satisfying to complete.

The abilities in this game are some of the most fleshed-out Kirby abilities to date, and most of them are from the original 2011 version! There are fighting game-style combos that the player can use to pull off some abilities' most powerful or useful attacks, and different abilities can very obviously change the way you play a stage due to their diversity. The balancing gets a bit iffy with some of them, surprisingly with the bosses rather than the enemies. Some bosses can have their health drained by the player just using strong long ranged attacks and jumping over the bosses when they are charged, but most times the player won't run into this. The abilities will feed much more into individual playstyle preference rather than just finding a single overpowered copy ability.

Story

Story 1

The story starts pretty simple, with a climax packed with action, betrayal, and even the threat of universal destruction. Yes, I am still talking about Kirby. For those who don't follow Kirby lore (almost everybody), it is still a cute and simple story with a very cool ending that almost invokes Avengers levels of inspiration and excitement for the last level, boss fight, and cutscene. Without spoiling the simple story points, it is hard to say much more, but a little after the second half of the game is where that classic Kirby game surprise dark tone kicks in. There aren't a ton of cutscenes because, as usual in Kirby, there is plenty of environmental storytelling as you go through Planet Popstar, climb dark towers, adventure an unknown planet, and the like. Each stage and level moves by so fast that you don't need a five-minute cutscene to tell you why you've gone to each location or who it is you're fighting. The game does all the explaining all its own until the really major plot points. So while very simple, it's exactly what you want from an action platformer based on a cute pink ball that likes to eat strawberry shortcakes.

Visuals

Visuals

This is the first game I've played that has genuinely made me feel old. Whether it is because Wii games had lower quality visuals than other games released at the time, or because twelve years is just longer than I feel it was is up for debate. Still, the improvement in visuals in this game compared to the almost GameCube-looking graphics on the original game are stellar. This feels like the artistic quality that a game with this kind of creativity deserves. The levels have had a complete graphical redesign, with all the platforms and textures being upgraded to fit the standard of a modern 2D Platformer.

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2D Platformers often have issues with not making their backgrounds look too generic, but in almost every single stage of Kirby's Return to Dreamland Deluxe, there is a high quality, or even multiple high-quality backgrounds themed to the area of Planet Popstar or Halcandra that they take place in. Backgrounds aren't static to the entire level either; they change for every stage within the levels. In the world of Kirby, between Planet Popstar, space, and the other planets Kirby and the pals may travel to, a clear theme has been developed for the wonderful landscapes in this universe. The 3D sprites and platforms do make a few of the 2D backgrounds look a little cheesy, but thematically they very much fit the world and add plenty of tone to the game.

Music

Jukebox

What a collection of bangers this game is comprised of! Not only are the tracks for each stage going to get stuck in your head and make you whistle them until you hear a new one, but the tracks themselves are over thirty minutes long each! That's right, on the soundtrack, each song is a full thirty (or more) minute track for you to use as background to anything else you may do while you listen to it! Earlier on in the game, a lot of the tracks are reminiscent of classic Kirby games and their stage/level tracks. As you get into each of the different levels, though, their stages have very appropriately themed tunes that go along with the environment you're getting familiar with. Once you finish the entire main story, you'll definitely find yourself having more than a few favorites to listen back on in the jukebox.

The late-game tracks are very good, and do a wonderful job of projecting the themes of the stages they are attached to, but personally, I believe the end of Planet Popstar is where the best tracks are. In the last level of planet Popstar, each of the stages develops a more ethereal vibe to it, making you realize that your accent isn't heading up towards a peaceful resolution.

New Content

Merry Magoland

With this being a remaster, it is important to focus on what was added to the game that is completely new and wasn't featured at all in the original game. Firstly is Merry Magoland, Magolor's theme park packed with every minigame available to be unlocked in the main game. It is an open area where you can choose minigames, and treat it like Mario Party to play and compete with your friends for high scores. It turns this Kirby title from a couch co-op to a full-on party game as well! Within Merry Magoland, masks can be unlocked by collecting tickets in level and through minigames, as well as by defeating bosses and levels in the main story. These masks can be equipped by players, with some of them featuring sounds from the character the mask represents! Some of the ticket card rewards even include characters from far previous titles like Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards.

Helper Magolor

With Kirby and the Forgotten Land being set in fully 3D environments, it's possible that some people may be playing Return to Dreamland Deluxe as their first 2D Kirby game! To help new or young players get the hang of Kirby's platforming, there is an optional Helper Magolor mode in which Magolor will save Kirby from pitfall deaths by carrying him out and back onto platforms. Obviously, most players won't use this, but it's a good feature for new Kirby or platformer players.

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Mecha KirbySand Kirby

The two new abilities in Return to Dreamland Deluxe are Mecha and Sand, as pictured above. Both include a wide array of attacks, including those fighting game-style combos I mentioned in the Gameplay section. Sand is definitely made more for people who want to string together combos on enemies in a cluster or on a straightaway. Mecha, on the other hand, is an optimal boss fight ability that has attacks in every direction for optimal directional switching, and fighting at both close and long range. The new abilities aren't just two new random ideas; they are abilities that genuinely improve the style of gameplay the player can experience in the remaster. Even players of the original Return to Dreamland will be able to play through the game in a whole new way.

Magolor Epilogue

Now for the feature of this remaster: The Magolor Epilogue. Is it a good enough feature to warrant buying the new version? Absolutely yes. The bonus hours of the Magolor Epilogue may just be better than the entire core game itself. In an order completely determined by the player, Magolor will slowly be regaining and upgrading his abilities while collecting pieces of a staff that will unlock his way out of the dimension he was dropped off in after the final events of the core game. Not only are his abilities so satisfying to use, but the boss fights are upgraded versions of the boss fights Kirby faces in the core game. The final boss is by far the best payoff, though. It feels more like something out of Metroid Dread than Kirby, in all honesty, but it's one of the most intense bosses fights in any Kirby game. Even players that were able to cruise through the core game will find themselves having to head out to upgrade their abilities some more before taking more attempts at the final boss of the Magolor Epilogue. It somewhat concludes Magolor's story, though it does leave his future up in the air, meaning a possible next spinoff of his, or maybe future appearance in another mainline game.

Kirby's Return to Dreamland Deluxe – 9.5/10

Happy Gang

Barring some areas of ease in the gameplay and a few texture choice issues for background contrast and such, Kirby's Return to Dreamland upgrades the original in every possible way, almost adding an entire second game's worth of content to an already fun Kirby game. 2D platformers aren't exactly leading the charge these days, so for HAL Laboratory to show everybody that even an old dog can learn new tricks reminds people that this style of game can absolutely be revitalized and still pushed to further limits. There isn't gonna be a new Smash Bros. game in the foreseeable future, so we all need games that family and friends can join in on for a group experience, and Return to Dreamland provides multiple ways to do so. I hope to see people using this game to bring back the days of couch co-op fun when games used to be about everybody getting maximum enjoyment and not about needing the newest graphics card to process a game's next-generation visuals. Its all about maximizing the fun, and in the words of Reggie Fils-Aimé, “If it's not fun, why bother?”

Review: Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe
Joseph Shay
Joseph is Production Director and Writer with experience in the esports field. He has coached Overwatch teams in North American and Pacific Contenders, and has been an avid esports fan for years now. Outside of esports and media, he is a Creative Writing major based out of Virginia, USA.